Exploration 5A: Needs that Arise from the Devastation of War


Module 5 assesses the devastation caused by war and the effort needed to respond to it. In Exploration 5A, students examine a number of photos to consider the resources that are lost and the needs arising from such losses. Then they reflect on what is required to address those needs. Students also consider the experiences of people who have been forced to leave their homes as a consequence of war.

This course is one 45-minute session.


  • To understand how war disrupts the normal supports of life
  • To become aware of the scope of humanitarian action needed to reduce and prevent the suffering caused by armed conflict

Key Ideas

Key Ideas

  • Armed conflict results in tremendous losses in terms of resources and disrupts the normal supports of life.
  • The task of repairing the normal supports of life requires the joint action of numerous humanitarian agencies.


In the Methodology Guide, review teaching methods 1 (Discussion), 2 (Brainstorming), 6 (Using stories, photos, videos), 7 (Writing and reflecting) and 9 (Small groups).

If possible, view the relevant chapter of the training film for teachers (Module 5).



Needs that result from armed conflict | 15 minutes (small groups)

Each learner should choose a photograph from “Photo collage 2A” and make a list of the needs that they think the people who lived through the situation in that photograph would have.

In small groups, have learners discuss the pictures they chose:

  • The resources they saw destroyed or lost
  • The needs they listed and why
  • Ask them to note not only highly visible damage, such as destroyed buildings, but other types of damage too, such as damage to utilities, to personal belongings, death and separation of family members, and loss of community services.

    Reconvene the whole group to compile a list of the resources destroyed because of armed conflict. Then have students list the needs people have as a consequence.

    Possible questions:

  • What further losses will people have as a consequence of the destroyed resources?
  • What kinds of activity might help people cope with these consequences of armed conflict?
  • Are certain types of action more urgent than others? What would be the criteria for deciding on the level of emergency?
  • Which groups generally deserve special attention in such emergencies? Why?

  • 2

    Responding to Needs | 15-20 minutes (small groups)

    In humanitarian action, many organizations cooperate to respond to victims with such needs. Besides the ICRC, many other groups are active: For example, different UN organizations such as UNICEF, UNHCR and the World Food Programme; International NGOs such as Mdecins sans frontires (MSF), Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and Handicap International; local organizations.

    Use “Affected by armed conflict Afghanistan 1999″ to focus on the variety of activities that must be organized to respond to the many needs that arise as a result of armed conflict. Present the situation in Afghanistan in 1999.

    Ask learners to imagine the consequences for the people.

    Then have each small group brainstorm ideas for specific humanitarian activities for one of the categories of programmes. (5 minutes) [Use an example from the "Sample of ICRC activities in Afghanistan, 1999", if necessary, to help learners get started.]

    Reconvene to share ideas.

    Possible questions:

  • What difficulties might humanitarian organizations encounter in carrying out these activities? Why? [For example: security problems; population in need locked in combat zones; difficulties in bringing relief convoys into the country because of lack of permission from neighbouring countries; access denied to population in need because they are considered to be enemy; overwhelming scope of the task when hundreds of thousands of people are displaced over a very short period of time; civilians in need mixed among armed combatants; lack of funds]
  • What precautions should be taken when planning or acting in humanitarian emergencies like these? [For example: contacting the armed groups to be sure they agree and support the actions planned; careful assessment to be sure that the victims are served according to their needs and that the assistance will not lead to dependency; planning so as to cover the most urgent needs and to address root problems first for example: before bringing dry food, check the available means to cook it; checking the quality of water to avoid an epidemic; using local experts whenever possible]
  • What actions are aimed at avoiding further consequences or new victims? [For example: pointing out the consequences of non-respect of IHL rules to the fighters' leaders; reporting the situations of the prisoners or civilians to the authorities and helping them find solutions; informing the victims about the services provided by humanitarian organizations and the way to benefit from them; helping military or armed group leaders to train combatants to respect IHL rules]
  • What different kinds of workers are needed for these activities? [For example: doctors and nurses, nutritionists, sanitation and habitat engineers, logisticians, pilots, secretaries, administrators, truck drivers, mechanics, media experts, lawyers, protection experts, interpreters, information-system technicians]

  • 3

    Close–What is it like? | 15min

    Humanitarian action is not, however, about the workers but about the people whose lives have been torn apart by armed conflict. Present the video (and transcript) “Forced from home”, in which Medin and Damir (age 12 and 13) tell what it was like to flee from home; and Saba, a 30- year-old mother of three, tells of her journey to a refugee camp.

    Discuss the effect of war on their lives and the needs that have resulted.

    Possible questions:

  • How were the boys affected by becoming refugees?
  • What needs did they have?
  • What sorts of humanitarian activities could meet those needs?
  • What losses has Saba had?
  • How do you think life in the refugee camp will differ from her previous life?
  • What humanitarian activities could help her family?